Text: Edgar Allan Poe to Jane Ermina Locke — May 19, 1848 (LTR-267)


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Fordham May 19. 48.

My Dear Friend,

Several times since the day on which your last kind and noble letter reached me I have been on the point of replying to it — but as often have been deterred through a consideration which you would not be likely to surmise, and which, most assuredly, had never influenced me in the slightest degree at any previous period of my life — at the very least since the epoch at which I attained “years of discretion”: — it was simply that I knew not what to say — that, in spite of your generous assurances, I feared to offend you, or at least to grieve you, by saying too much, while I could not reconcile myself to a possibility of saying too little. I felt, and still do feel, an embarrassment in writing to you that surprises me even more than it will surprise yourself. But for duties that, just now, will not be neglected or even postponed — the proof-reading of a [page 2:] work of scientific detail, in which a trivial error would involve me in very serious embarrassment — I would, ere this, have been in Lowell — to clasp you by the hand — and to thank you personally for all that I owe you: — and oh, I feel that this is very — very much.

There are some passages in your letter which fill me with a pleasure inexpressible — but there are others which would wound me to the heart were it possible for me, even for a single moment, to suppose you in earnest —”They attach to the brief page of my own history an importance — an ‘all’ that while it surprises, grieves me”. And again —”But what it can be? again I ask. Is it Glyndon’s ‘great fear’ — a fear of the world? Can it be that because you absolutely know ‘nothing’ of me — because of what seems to you my obscurity there may be something wrong that makes you secretly hesitate to call me friend.” Sweet friend, dear friend, these are your words but are they not very cruel? You have spoken of me, too, as “a poet” and yet you would accuse me — if even only impliedly, — of “a fear of the world”. You cannot mean this in your heart, or you can know nothing of my “personal history”. Alas, my whole existence has been the merest Romance — in the sense of the most utter [page 3:] unworldliness. I have never regretted this before, but there is something which whispers to me that an hour has come, or may speedily come, in which I shall most bitterly regret it.

You will not suspect me of affectation, dear friend, or of any unworthy passion for being mysterious, merely because I find it impossible to tell you now — in a letter — what that one question was which I ‘dare not even ask’ of you. It is your own kindness — you own manifestation of a chivalrous nature — your own generous sentiment about which I am not and cannot be mistaken — it is all this, of good and loveable, existing in yourself, which have insensibly brought about in me this “fear”. Will you not remember that the hermit life which for the last three years I have led, buried in the woods of Fordham, has necessarily prevented me from learning anything of you, and will you still refuse to tell me at least one particular of your personal history? I feel that you cannot misunderstand me. Tell me nothing — I ask nothing — which has any reference to ‘worldliness’ or the ‘fear of the world’. Tell me only of the ties — if any exist — that bind you to the world: — and yet I perceive that I may have done very wrong in asking you this: — now that I have asked it, it seems to me the maddest of questions, involving, possibly, the most visionary of hopes. (over[) ] [page 4:]

I have seen much that you have written, but “now that I know you” I have a deep curiosity to see all. Can I procure in N. York the volume of poems to which you refer in your second letter?

A Critical and Biographical Memoir of myself appeared in “Graham’s Mag:” for Feb. 45 — also one in the “Phil. Sat’ Museum” the year previous: — one also in the “Boston Notion” I forget exactly when: — and one also in the last January number of the “South. Liter’ Messenger”. The only portrait, I believe, was in “Graham”. I have no copy & have made several ineffectual efforts to get one. I do not think the portrait would be recognized.

Truly — most truly yours always,
E A P.


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Notes:

None.


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[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Letters - Poe to J. E. Locke (LTR267/RCL708)